Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “development”

Fig Tree Prayer Lessons

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Mark 11:20-25 ESV

When Jesus cursed the fig tree after not finding any fruit on it, His disciples took note (see Mark 11:12-14).  Upon passing by the tree the following day, Peter draws everyone’s attention to the withered tree. Jesus used the opportunity to instruct them in some key principles of prayer.

1. Jesus begins the fig tree lesson with a reminder that the object of their prayer of faith is God Himself.  It is God who answers and moves mountains, not our faith.  We just need have the faith to ask!  Jesus did not say, “Have faith!” – but rather, “Have faith in God!”

2. He goes on to remind us that we must bring our requests before the Lord.  We must ask! Jesus assumes that we will ask specifically – “Lord, move this mountain!”  While this may seem obvious, James rebukes us with, “…You do not have, because you do not ask.”  James 4:2 ESV

3. Jesus now instructs His followers that when making our petitions we are not to doubt in our heart that God will answer.  This does not mean that we have to self-brainwash ourselves trying to remove all doubt.  But the exhortation is to avoid a type of doubt that says, “I know this is a waste of time, but just in case, I’ll make my request.”  That type of praying sees the act of prayer as a kind of good luck charm or perfunctory act.  God is not honored with such requests.

4.  Next Jesus reminds us that instead of doubting, we are to believe in our heart that our prayers will be granted.  Even more, He says, we are to believe that we have already received the answer.  This is an attitude of expectancy from the Lord based upon His promises, faithfulness, love and generosity towards us. It is rooted in the reality, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31 ESV

5. Lastly, Jesus states that unresolved conflicts and a failure to forgive those who have wronged us will hinder our prayers.  The Holy Spirit will remind us as we pray of those who we are to forgive. (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 1 Peter 3:19)

Certainly Jesus had much more to say about the subject of prayer (see Matthew 6 and Luke 11) .  But it is important to note that during the last week of His public ministry, He taught His followers about prayer as illustrated by a withered fig tree.

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Leadership Quotes

Today is the last holiday of the summer in America – Labor Day.  I’m taking some time off this week and hope than many of you are getting some much needed refreshment.  Below are some of my favorite leadership quotes for your reflection.

They came to [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.    Mark 12:14  NIV

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.   Daniel 6:4 NIV

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.   Psalm 78:72 NIV

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.   Luke 22:25-26  NIV

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Mark 10:45  NIV

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38  ESV

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  1 Peter 5:5  NIV

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.   Hebrews 13:7  NIV

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.   Hebrews 13:17  NIV

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

 

Recording Your Personal Journey

These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the LORD, and these are their stages according to their starting places.     Numbers 33:1-2  ESV

Note that the Lord wanted the forty-year journey from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land recorded.  It was ‘by the command of the Lord’ that Moses wrote the many stages of Israel’s Exodus and their wanderings in the desert, finally arriving at the east side of the Jordan River. God thought it important to write down the history they were making.

Moses recorded the locations of their journey as well as the significant events.  He wrote about passing through the Red Sea, camping at a beautiful oasis of multiple springs and palm trees, their lack of water at another location, the death of his brother, Aaron and the reactions of neighboring kings.  All these details were saved as a reflection on their history and were life messages to be passed on to future generations.

Each of us is also on a journey that the Lord is directing.  Too often we fail to appreciate what He has done or is doing in and through us.  We are building life messages as we go that God intends for us to share with others.  But too often we fail to record the details and over time they are forgotten.

Are you recording the details of your journey for your own self-reflection, your family and those you serve ?  The journey the Lord has you on and His ministry to you is intended to platform you to minister to others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.   2 Corinthians 1:3-4  ESV

Pay attention to the paths you walk.  Record your journey and the lessons learned.  Expect God to give you opportunity to share what He has taught you with others who are on similar journeys.  Steward your life messages!!!

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Developing Depth in the Word

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15  ESV

A key to depth in the Word of God from which to lead and serve others is our perspective.  Some who are immature and impatient want to develop depth in the Scriptures quickly.  But the wise have a long-term view, knowing that this depth will be created over a lifetime of reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures.

This desired depth will come through a disciplined life as modeled by Ezra – For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.  Ezra 7:10  ESV

At one time I had a lifetime goal to trying to develop depth in the entire Bible – all sixty-six books!  But a conversation with Dr. Bobby Clinton helped change that goal to what he calls a Core Set.  Rather than shallowly addressing the entire book, better to concentrate in a few sections over a lifetime, while maintaining familiarity with the whole.

Because we minister to others from our personal depth in the Scriptures, the more influence a Kingdom leader has, the more books they should have in their Core Set. In addition to books of the Bible, one may have key passages (i.e. The Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13), Bible characters, or life-message related topics (i.e. disciplemaking, world missions, leadership) as a part of your Core Set.

Dr. Clinton would suggest that everyone should have a minimum of four books in their Core Set – one of the four gospels, Romans, Ephesians, and a book of your choice.  The gospels represent the life and ministry of Jesus our Lord.  Romans describes in detail the revelation Paul received regarding the gospel of salvation by grace.  Ephesians describes his other revelation regarding the Body of Christ – Jews and Gentiles made one in Christ.  The other book will be one where you go often for encouragement, comfort and inspiration.  It’s that section of your Bible with the most marks or where you have to tape the pages back into the binding.

In our Core Set we read, study, memorize and meditate over a lifetime.  We have our devotions in these books, preach and teach from them, write about them and minister to others from an overflow of depth in them.  We maintain connection with the whole of the Word by reading broadly and hearing it taught, but our concentration is in our Core Set.

Seek to be laser-like rather than a light bulb.  Have a long-term view regarding your depth in the Word that you may minister from an overflow.

Focus for impact!  Don’t sacrifice depth for area!

 

Kingdom Leaders and the Word

Study it through, Pray it in, Live it out, Pass it on.       Leighton Ford

Jesus reminds us that it is the seed of the Word of God the Kingdom worker plants that springs forth in the life soil of an individual (Mark 4:14).  Peter reminds us that we have been born again by the seed of the Word of God –  “… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” 1 Peter 1:23 ESV

A mark of a Kingdom leader is that they saturate their life and leadership with the Scriptures.  Not in a proof text, Post-it note kind of way – “Ooops, I’d better add a verse to this so that it sounds more spiritual.”  Rather, they have so embedded themselves in the Word of God that it naturally flows from them as they live and lead others to accomplish mission for the glory of God.

Note in the above quote that the first three steps regarding saturating our life and leadership with the Bible are internally focused.  We study the Word, not in a purely academic sense, but rather, with an eye towards applying it to ourselves and then to others.

Next we pray over the Scriptures with a meditative, contemplative attitude, expecting God to speak to us personally.  He will speak to our current situations and challenges, directing our paths and helping us sort out His voices from the cacophony that that surrounds us.  In Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) He promises, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”

Next in the ministry of the Word is that we have to apply it to ourselves before we share it with others.  It was Howard Hendricks who said, “If it does not work at ‘home,’ don’t export it!”  Hypocrisy is by definition not living what you instruct others to be or do and Jesus had much to say about hypocrites – none of it positive!

Lastly, having studied, prayed and personally applied the Word, we now share it with others.  We align our leadership with God’s ways and seek to bring glory to Him, knowing that we will give an account for our actions at the end of our days. Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” And James gives Kingdom leaders this sobering reminder, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)

Thus, we do humbly serve the King and seek to advance His Kingdom by honoring His Word in our life and leadership.  Are you seeking to saturate your life with the Word?  Are you pursuing knowing Him and abiding in Him by meeting Him daily in the Scriptures?

Casting Vision by Modeling

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

I was recently asked, “Tom, what is a good way to develop a platform for influencing others?” I replied that a powerful means for influence is your own example and recounted this story of unknown origin that illustrates the power of modeling.

A young man sat on a bench in his train compartment opposite an older gentleman who was engaged in reading his bible.  The young man thought he recognized the older man as one of his personal heroes – a preacher who had great impact and a worldwide ministry.  Seizing the opportunity to talk with his hero, he worked up his courage, cleared his throat and asked him a question.

“Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you Mr. …?” he timidly asked.  Putting aside his bible, the older man responded affirmatively.  “Sir,” the young man continued, “I have admired your ministry for a long time and so desire to have the type of influence you have for Jesus.  Is there any advice the you would have for me to gain that influence which you now have?”

The old saint thought for a moment and then said, “Young man, I find that if you set yourself on fire, others will come and watch you burn!”

Never underestimate the power of your own example.  Point others to Christ and His Kingdom by the way you live as well as your words.  Live your personal calling in such a way as others take notice that you are one whose life backs up what you so proclaim.

Aside from the Bible, the biographies of great men and women of God have more shaped me as a Kingdom leader than any other books.  These ‘historical mentors’ have modeled a way, having blazed a trail that I seek to follow.

Yes, “Leaders are readers!” – but be careful what you read.  Saturate your life with the Scriptures and regularly read biographies of those who were used of God to change the world.  Then, others will come and follow the trail you leave behind.

Is your example worth following?

Frozen by Fear

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:40 NIV

Fear is an emotion we experience in response to a perceived threat that could be harmful.  Like all God-given emotions, fear is morally neutral; it’s not good, bad or purple.

Fear can be protective as it warns us of something that may be dangerous.  Imagine you are walking in the woods alone, enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation, when suddenly the peace of the moment is jarred by the sounds of rustling, dry leaves and cracking sticks behind you.  Adrenaline is immediately released into your blood stream.  Your heart rate jumps, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and you quickly move to high sense of alertness.  Is it a bear?  Perhaps it’s a mountain lion?  Or is it just a squirrel or a rabbit?  This reflex-like response is God-given to protect us. Once the potential threat is identified – oh, it was a squirrel – our fear abates and our physiology returns to normal.

Fear can be paralyzing and destructive causing us not to act if we let fear control us.  “Like a deer in the headlights” describes one who is frozen by fear with no response to the on-coming threat.  Kingdom leaders can experience extreme fear of the unknown future that seems so foreboding and too difficult or challenging to want to think about.  They ‘freeze’ and fail act, hoping that the threat will just go away and leave them alone.

God has no fear, for nothing is a threat to Him!  Kingdom leaders have the God knows no fear as One who promises to never leave us – even in the valley of the shadow of death.  Note the exhortation from Jesus in the passage above:  “Why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you letting your fear control your actions to the point of panic.  His response was to point them to faith – faith in Him. He had said we are going to the other side of the lake, not going to the middle and drown!

Kingdom leaders respond with faith when confronting our fears.  We acknowledge our fears, but do not let our fears dictate our actions. Rather, we act by faith in God who knows the future, who sovereignly controls the present and is powerfully able to deal with any threat we may face now or then.

Frozen or full of faith?  Which are you during these foreboding days?

Vision Casting

Effectively casting vision never comes to an end. It is a discipline.     Derwin Gray

Casting vision is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader and Kingdom leaders especially must align this vision with God’s eternal purposes.  In the quote above we are reminded that vision casting is an on-going process, not an event.

Vision is a faith statement about an unknown future that we see by faith.  Vision statements usually have a time horizon of 5-10 years out in front of our current reality.  Beyond 10 years it’s difficult to have a clear vision due to the rapidity of change and the multitude of unexpected influences that can impact the vision outcomes.

Good vision statements have three common characteristics: they are clear, concise and compelling.

First, they must be clear.  That is, the vision must be clear enough to see the destination or outcome.  An unclear vision makes it difficult for others to decide if they want to join with us or support it financially.

Secondly, they must be concise.  Vision statements that are too long or too complicated are not memorable or easily repeated.  Conciseness takes effort to choose exactly the right words that convey enough to help others visualize where we are going, but not so wordy that it seems complicated or confusing.

Lastly, good vision statements are compelling.  They demand a response from us.  They capture our hearts, not our heads.  They raise our sights to the future and inspire us to act.  They draw us to join in and help make that future vision a reality.  They are easy to recruit other to because they are big enough to allow room for many to join with us.

Casting vision is a primary job of the team leader.  You are the primary mouthpiece for the vision.  If you share an unclear vision then those around you will be even more unclear as they are forced to ‘translate’ what you have said into their context.

Vision much be repeated again and again, for it comes into and out of focus for those we lead.  Changing realities and ‘glorious opportunities’ can divert attention from what was once very clear, but now seems less important or even boring.  Keeping the vision before those we lead is a discipline that we develop as we lead, always reminding those around us of ‘why’ and ‘what’ we are about.

Vision – don’t leave home without it!

Leaders and Crisis

Life and leadership bring crisis moments whether we are expecting them or not. They just happen! This reality should prepare us to address them when they show up. But we are often taken by surprise when a crisis interrupts our plans. Crises are not something to be dreaded, but rather embraced.

The following are several thoughts on how to face up to your next leadership crisis:
1. Adjust your attitude! This current crisis is an opportunity for your personal growth as a leader as you address this latest ‘disaster.’ Rather than fearing this crisis, embrace it and look for the Lord to help you not only conquer the problem, but also turn this into a hidden blessing.

2. Move towards it now! It will not solve itself! If ignored, it will probably grow worse, bigger, more ominous, or ripple out to influence more people. Just as David ran towards Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:48), move towards this threat and engage!

3. Do not delegate your problems to someone else on your team. Others can ‘smell’ that kind of lack of courage or unwillingness to deal with something that is messy.

4. While not delegating the crisis to another, loop in some others for help. You continue to run point on the crisis, but by bring in others for help they too will grow from the experience and their contributions will often help bring about a better solution than if you handled it all yourself.

5. Look for the best solution to the problem, not just the quickest or easiest. One practical discipline that I have tried to develop in this area of problem solving is to force myself to come up with several possible solutions, not just one. But doing this I am often pushing myself to think more deeply or broadly to different, more creative ways to solve the issue. The final action is often some combination of several possible solution scenarios.

6. Expect God to help you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). Look to Him in the midst of seeking a way forward. The prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12 is instructive, “Lord… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

7. When the crisis abates, and it will, be sure to give thanks for deliverance from the current mess. An ungrateful spirit is disappointing to others serving with you and revealing about our hubris as if we were the ones who really solved the issue.

Crises come and crises go. Your either in the midst of one right now or one is coming soon. Get ready! One person’s crisis is another person’s ‘opportunity.’

[Re-posted from June 2015]

The Treasures of Darkness

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.    Exodus 20:21  ESV

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.   Matthew 10:27  ESV

I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.   Isaiah 45:3  ESV

Note where Moses had to go to meet with God – into the ‘thick darkness.’  What a description!  Try to imagine the difference between simply being in the dark and being in the ‘thick’ darkness.  Sounds quite foreboding doesn’t it?

It would seem that the adjective ‘thick’ implies something that can be felt, not just seen.  It is a darkness that it total, overwhelming and scary.  Perhaps it’s similar to being in a large underground cave where all lights extinguished.  It’s an eerie feeling for sure when you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  But it is in this kind of absolute darkness of soul that God invites us to meet with Him and He speaks to our innermost character.

Our tendencies are to run away from and recoil from the darkness.  We plead with God to remove it or shine some light within.  But it is in this foreboding darkness of soul that the Lord speaks, for He has our undivided attention with no other sensory distractions other than our own thoughts.  It is in the ‘thick darkness’ that we can hear the still, small voice of God piercing through into our hearts and bringing comfort, hope and assurance.

When we hear His voice, we begin to realize that He intends to use our darkness to bring new life within us.  And He gives a new life message that will transform us forever when we exit the darkness.  It is a platform of influence that we never would have had, had we not experienced Him in the darkness.  We exit the darkness with a new-found strength and message that He intends for us to share.  “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light…”

Therefore, do not shrink back from the darkness you may be facing.  Embrace it.  Plunge into it.  For in this darkness you will find the treasures of God Himself and the life-changing messages that He will give you.  He promises, “I will give you the treasures of darkness…”

He will see you through the darkness into the light.  When you exit, you will be forever changed more into His image than when you entered.  And He will use you as His instrument in ways you had not dreamed or imagined.

“When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most.”     Charles Spurgeon

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